We often get caught up in how difficult things can be so remember the following: Things always seem impossible until they are done. Just know that starting can be a very difficult thing to do but when completed you realize that you did it and it seemed difficult at the time but now you are done!

—Penny Zdichavsky


Community Spotlight

Each month, we profile a special member of our community: a student, alumni, faculty member, or partner. Check out this month’s inspiring story below.

Penny Zdichavsky

Director of Dietary Services
Albright Manor


Role/partnership with CHA Learning:

Alumni of the Food Service & Nutrition Management Program

Website: Albright Manor
Social Media: LinkedIn
Location: Beamsville, Ontario


I can tell you that if you would have asked me when I was young what I would become, I would never have said I would Manage a Food Service Department. I wonder how many of us ended up where we thought we would?

My road travelled to where I am now, did not start in the direction of food. In fact, I was a stay-at-home mom, raising three girls, cutting hair in the evenings, and driving a school bus during the day. It wasn’t until one day a friend of mine said that their cousin was going to cooking school.  I had always enjoyed cooking so I thought I could do that too. My youngest had just started school full time so it was my time to do something that I was passionate about.

I started a three-year apprenticeship and worked my way to a Red Seal. Upon completing this I worked in an institution for boys. I found myself wanting more and took a job at a penitentiary and then a long-term care home. It was here that I was approached by Management asking if I was interested in becoming a Nutrition Manager. I looked into the course offered at CHA Learning and gave it some real thought.

I loved the fact that I could keep my full-time job and complete my schooling. While working as a cook I completed the two-year Food Service and Nutrition Management in Healthcare program and transitioned directly into a full-time Food Service Nutrition Manager’s position in the home where I had been cooking. It was a true whirlwind.

I never looked back and am so glad that I took the plunge into higher education. You are never too old to educate yourself, never too old to learn.


A Little More About Penny Zdichavsky


What is something you have worked on that you are proud of?

I am immensely proud to have had the opportunity to work on the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management (CSNM) board of Directors.  Being the Examinations Portfolio Manager allowed me to become familiar with the inner workings of the board and gave me the confidence to put my name forward for the Presidency.  I am currently in the 2nd year of a three-year Presidency role.  I can’t say enough about how belonging to this organization continues to keep me current and challenge me at every opportunity.


Who do you admire in healthcare and why?

I admire our front-line workers from all departments that work in healthcare.  Simply put they are empathetic to residents’ needs.  It isn’t just anyone that can work in healthcare, it takes a special someone.  So, I can’t say that there is any one individual person but rather there are many.


What would you want someone to know entering CHA Learning’s Food Service and Nutrition Management in Healthcare Program?

I think the best advice for someone starting a program at CHA Learning is to recognize that this is an online program and you and you alone are responsible for meeting deadlines.  It is important to set the time aside needed to complete all course content and assignments.  Be realistic with your timelines.  I found that setting consistent times aside to work on my assignments allowed me to stay on track and ahead of schedule. Know that there are mentors that you can reach out to for assistance so make sure that when you need help, you ask.  Be sure to become a student member with the CSNM.  This will provide opportunities for education and enable you to make connections with like-minded people.


How do you make room for continuing to learn while leading?

I learn by reading-the more you read the more you will know.  Attend external industry events and network at these events. I make sure that I have a great variation and diversity in my sources of learning, so I am exposed to different ideas.


What are the best ways that leaders can support other leaders, whether within the same organization or different organizations?

Communication is the key ingredient to supporting each other. Poor communication skills can lead to misunderstandings and frustrations.  Good communication builds trust amongst leaders.  knowing how and when to communicate sets the road for successful relationships.


What are some of your favourite hobbies outside of work?

I play golf and while I admit that this is a love-hate relationship because all within a round I love and then hate the game.  It is a great way to get outdoors and rid yourself of frustration or become frustrated depending on the game you are having.  

I love to cook, not to be confused with baking.  While both are making things, I much rather throw things together and see what it becomes.  Baking is far too precise and sticky.   Many will tell you that baking relaxes them. Well…for me, it does the opposite.